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Meccano jumps the shark?

8 November 2018

Who remembers the days of Meccano?

When I was a kid, "making" stuff was all the rage. Some of the most popular gifts around Christmas time were kitsets and things like Meccano which enabled kids to get their hands dirty and actually build stuff.

Taking a store-bought model car out of the box and playing with it until it broke was a pretty transient joy. Building such a toy from a collection of parts and *then* playing with it until it broke was a double joy.

I recall many a long hour spent playing with my own Meccano set back in the day, creating all sorts of ludicrous cranes, vehicles and other structures. I learned a lot about things such as triangulation, planning etc. Not only was it a hell of a lot of fun but it was insanely educational in the way that only "hands on" can be some times.

Believe it or not, Meccano is still a thing.

Sadly, it's not the "thing" I remember.

If you go to the Meccano website you'll see that things have changed a lot since the 1950s and 1960s when I was a keen constructor.

Full marks to the company that now owns the brand for updating to more than just a box filled with strips of green painted steel strips and small fasteners.

Demerits for now making *everything* a purpose-built kitset and effectively removing the very important free-style creativity that the old Meccano fostered.

It seems that these days you buy a specific Meccano kitset (such as this FA-18 Super Hornet -- and that's what you get to build.

What?

My fondest recollections of Meccano involve me sitting in front of a huge wooden box of generic bits and coming up with an idea for a completely new build.

Much of the fun was actually deciding what to build and then designing it -- within the constraints of the components that were to hand.

I seem to recall that any vehicle I was building had to involve no more than three wheels, because one of the wheels from my set was missing. I also recall that my set had no curved pieces so everything had to be created with straight strips and right-angled corner pieces.

Today's Meccano concept, which consists of simply emptying the box onto a table and following the detailed instructions to build a single, solitary design is crap!

Sadly, even though I spent some time searching the Meccano website, I could find no trace of the "Meccano Set" product that so many young lads enjoyed half a century ago.

What a shame!

To be honest, I don't think I'd bother buying any of the Meccano offerings for my grandkids, it's all just too limiting and limited.

Instead, I'd buy them a hot-glue gun, some cardboard boxes, lollipop sticks and an electric motor or two -- then point them at videos like this:

Now that's more like it!

Why has Meccano gone from a product that fostered creativity and inventiveness to one that prevents it? Tragic!

What do readers think? Has Meccano jumped the shark and would we be far better off showing kids how to use the kind of resources shown in that video so they could have a blank canvas and an unlimited ability to exercise their creativity?

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